Neil Adams this afternoon racked up his first managerial win as Canaries boss with a compelling win over ten-man Watford.
For once, Lady Luck smiled on the Norfolk club and its former Youth team coach as Hornets defender Joel Ekstrand saw red within three minutes of the start – a wayward elbow aimed in the direction of Nathan Redmond putting the visitors firmly on the back foot from whence they never really recovered.
It was Bradley Johnson who was first on hand to capitalise half an hour later with a fine, curling lob into the top corner – just reward for a half in which the new-look front pairing of Lewis Grabban and Kyle Lafferty started to show just what they might be made of.
An impression that they would reinforce further after the break as Adams’ attacking ambitions were underlined by slamming two, out-and-out strikers up top to begin to shrug off the more cautious air that surrounded his predecessor Chris Hughton and, till now, had dogged his own managerial start.
And after the false start that was the limp, 1-0 defeat at Wolves on the opening weekend of the season, there was no concealing Adams’ relief at his first victory as goals from Grabban and Alexander Tettey completed a good afternoon’s work.
Particularly after a week in which one or two unsavoury headlines had followed – not least the claims of racist abuse from City’s own travelling support and the misconduct charge that Martin Olsson managed to rustle up on the way to the dressing room.
“I’m obviously delighted,” said the Canary chief afterwards, as City avoided the fate of a Fulham and losing their first two games back in the lower flight.
“I’m very pleased with how we applied ourselves today,” added Adams, as City went from chalk to cheese in terms of performance levels from their opening no-show.
“We needed to get the first win on the board as quickly as possible,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk. “We needed to come here and put on a show and we more than did that.”
The quality of the goals – and the quality of the possession around them – delighted the boss.
“We’ve had three quality goals today and could have had a lot more. They were fantastic – the two chips [Johnson and Grabban] were top drawer. Top, top class finishes and then Alex [Tettey] goes and drills one in at the near post.”
His cause was clearly helped by the early exit of the Swedish international.
“What we said to the players and what you were looking for [after the sending off] was patience and possession. And I thought the level of possession we had was very similar to that in the second-half at Wolves – only today we had the end product. We scored three and could have scored double that.”
A goal to the good at the break after Johnson’s 32nd minute strike, two goals in the space of little more than 90 second-half seconds broke what was left of the Hornets’ resistance.
Grabban grabbed his first goal for the club with a decent albeit deflected effort from outside the box off a Wes Hoolahan assist, before turning provider himself for a lurking Tettey. Not quite to the same standard as last season’s extraordinary pile-driver, but more than enough to seal a much-needed success.
Points in the bag, the City chief was able to demonstrate to his Championship rivals the strength he has in depth – particularly in that midfield area.
New-boy Gary O’Neil and Dutch World Cup star Leroy Fer arrived before the end as the guessing games continued ahead of the summer transfer window closing at the end of the month. Given Johnson’s goal-scoring form, Hoolahan’s new deal and – on today’s showing – hunger and Jonny Howson’s availability post-injury, Adams is not short of options.
Whether the same options will be there on September 1 is another matter.
Afterwards Adams insisted that they would not be leaving the door open for Fer; but money will talk, as ever. Right now, he was in the squad for the Blackburn clash on Tuesday night.
“That name is a new one on me,” was the manager’s response to the rumours of Kris Commons’ arrival from Celtic.
Back to the game and the lively Grabban could have added his second, Norwich’s fourth as the home side continued to make good use of their one-man advantage, while Redmond continued to chance his arm from distance. Again and again.
It was just the kind of shot-strewn fare that the punters demanded and deserved.
And keeping the home faithful occupied in such a manner will do more than anything else to decide Adams’ own managerial fate and fortune.
He might like to say a little ‘Thank you!’ to the footballing gods this evening. Ekstrand’s wayward elbow was just the job.